Mesut Ozil’s wonder-goal caps an epic comeback from Arsenal in Bulgaria
Gunners beat Ludogorets 3-2 to qualify for last 16 of Champions League
Mesut Ozil scored a superb winner as Arsenal came from 2-0 down to beat Ludogorets 3-2 in Sofia on Tuesday and qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League.
Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain are the two big names in Group A and both were in a position to advance to the last 16 with two games to spare.
The Gunners did so and the victory keeps them on course to go through as group winners.
Ozil’s wonder strike to secure the victory will steal the headlines as the gifted German ran from deep to complete the comeback in style.
As goalkeeper Milan Borjan ran out of the box to meet him, Ozil lifted the ball over him, sold a dummy to two scrambling defenders and coolly tapped in the winner on 88 minutes.
“I told them not to panic at 2-0 down and stick to our game,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said after the game.
“I have already stated that Ludogorets are a very good side. I was delighted that we managed to level before half time.
“Now we play Paris [St Germain] at home and we have a chance to finish top.”
The Bulgarian champions had gone in front on 12 minutes when Jonathan Cafu reacted quicker than the Arsenal defence to convert a free-kick from close range.
Cafu then turned provider when Kieran Gibbs fell as the Brazilian dropped a shoulder, allowing him to cross for in-form striker Claudiu Kesuru to clip home his 10th goal in 14 games.
But then came Arsenal’s astonishing turnaround.
Alexis Sanchez sent Ozil on a run down the left and he set up Granit Xhaka for a precise left-foot strike to pull a goal back on 21 minutes.
Aaron Ramsey, back in the Arsenal line-up, provided a pin-point cross to set up Olivier Giroud, who powered home his header to equalise on 41 minutes as Borjan mistimed his run.
“It is great to be back after long absence,” said Ramsey. “It’s important to keep the momentum going, we are looking forward to the derby.”
“It’s tough for them but we never gave up,” added Giroud.
“We killed them on the counter-attack. I had a great delivery from Aaron and I finished the job.”
David Ospina was again selected in goal for Arsenal in the Champions League ahead of Petr Cech and the Colombian proved his worth twice with Wanderson bearing down on him before Ozil won it for Arsenal.
PSG were also thankful for a superb late winner as they beat Basel 2-1 in Switzerland with a brilliant long-range volley from Thomas Meunier clinching the points.
Blaise Matuidi’s back-heel flick just before the break gave PSG the lead but visiting goalkeeper Alphonse Areola was caught off his line when a cross from substitute Luca Zuffi sailed over him in the 76th minute to level the scores.
Coach Unai Emery’s last trip to the St Jakob-Park five months ago was for the Europa League final which his Sevilla side won, and he was celebrating another victory here thanks to Belgian full-back Meunier’s goal.